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Autonomous Weapons, Robots, Law of War, International Humanitarian Law


This purpose of this essay is to critique a 2015 report entitled Mind the Gap: The Lack of Accountability for Killer Robots by Human Rights Watch (HRW) produced with the assistance of the Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC). The HRW/IHRC paper attempted to establish that autonomous weapons should be banned because, they claim, “neither criminal law nor civil law guarantees adequate accountability for individuals directly or indirectly involved in the use of fully autonomous systems.” Contrary to HRW/IHRC assertions, this article maintains that although no one can “guarantee” accountability, there are sufficient legal tools to do so when appropriate; autonomous weapons are not somehow exempted from legal regimes applicable to other weapons or the law of war more generally. This essay will conclude that the weapons are not unlawful, and further argue – as other have – that it is better to develop norms to control these systems than to attempt to ban them outright.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Autonomous robots, Military weapons--Law and legislation, Humanitarian law, War (International law)